Tuesday, September 26, 2017

How to Spot a Credit Repair Scam

Credit repair scammers tell you they can make credit repair quick and easy. Unfortunately, when they’re done, your score may still be low, you’ll have lost a nice chunk of change, and you could even be facing criminal charges. Here are the warning signs of a credit repair scam:

1.) Upfront payment
Under the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA), credit repair companies are forbidden to request or receive payment until they’ve completed the services they’ve promised.

2.) Big promises 
Scammers may claim they can remove negative information from your credit report, even information that is accurate and current. Don’t believe them; no one can do this. They might also promise to boost your score in just a few weeks. This isn’t true either. It takes at least 30 days for changes to be evident on your credit report.

3.) Offers a “new credit identity” 
In these scams, companies promise to create a new credit identity for a fee. After you pay, the company will provide you with a nine-digit number. They may refer to this number as a CPN – a credit profile number or a credit privacy number. Alternatively, they may direct you to apply for an EIN – an Employer Identification Number.

The company instructs you to use this form of ID to apply for credit, telling you it is legal. However, it’s not – and you’ve just been scammed. These companies are selling you a stolen SSN. They walk away with your money and leave you in hot water because you’ve just committed multiple federal crimes. Falling for a credit identity scam could mean facing fines or prison time.

4.) Tells you to dispute accurate information on your credit report 
Disputing accurate information on your credit report is illegal.

5.) Evasive when questioned 
The Credit Repair Organization Act made it illegal for credit repair companies to lie about your rights and their services. These companies must provide:
  • A written contract detailing your legal rights 
  • Your three-day right to cancel the contract without charge 
  • The anticipated time it will take until results are evident 
  • The total cost you will pay for their services 
  • Their guarantee 
If you’ve hired a credit repair company that hasn’t lived up to its promises, you can choose to sue the company in federal court. Along with other victims, you can file a class action lawsuit against the company.

Finally, it’s best to report the scam to your local consumer affairs office or to your state attorney general. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). File your complaint online at ftc.gov/complaint or call 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Need help understanding your credit report? Community Financial is here to help and will provide a free credit review. Simply visit a branch near you or call (877) 937-2328.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Dealing With a Financial Setback

Financial setbacks come in all shapes and sizes. It can be an expensive household repair, a medical emergency, getting laid off, or the birth of a baby. Whatever the situation, it’s impossible to plan for every financial hit you will take in your lifetime. But don’t fret. If you’re hit with hard times, here are some tips to keep in mind.

1.) Don’t panic 
Keeping calm will allow you to think more clearly and resolve your deficit quicker. As difficult as things seem now, they’ll always look a little better after some levelheaded planning.

2.) Crunch the numbers 
Sit down and work out exactly how much more money you’ll need to cover your new expense or to fill the gap of income loss.

3.) Work twice as hard 
The only ways for stretching a deficit to cover your needs are to either earn more or spend less. Since tightening your budget is almost always stressful, try finding ways to add to your income first. If possible, put in more hours at work. Consider freelancing or consulting. Take a side job for some extra cash. Do whatever it takes!

4.) Trim your spending 
Now it’s time to see which expenses you can trim. First, you’ll need to prioritize. List all the expenses you cannot do without and those that would be irresponsible to neglect. Then, take an honest look at your remaining expenses to see where you can cut back. Shop the sales to cut your grocery bill in half. Trim spontaneous purchases by only using cash. If you’re a two-car family, consider cutting back to one car for now. Push off your vacation plans until things start looking up.

5.) Contact your creditors 
If you cannot make some of your minimum monthly payments anymore, contact your creditors before they come calling on you. Most creditors will be happy to work out a reasonable payment plan with you.

6.) Reach out to family and friends 
Tell your family and friends what’s going on. They’ll support you and encourage you until you get back on your feet, and they may even be able to help out with employment opportunities or contacts.

7.) Be proactive 
Hindsight is always 20/20. Harness the urgency you feel now to get into the habit of building up an emergency fund. As soon as you’re back on your feet, start putting away money for protection in the event of future setbacks. Experts recommend having 3-6 month of living expenses saved up in case you can’t work for any reason.

Do you need help recovering from a financial crisis? We can help! Call us at (877) 937-2328 or stop by your local branch for help with money management or debt consolidation.

Your Turn: How have you maintained your equilibrium during a financial setback? Share your best tips and advice with us in the comments!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Can Living Frugally Make You Happier?

We all know that money can’t buy happiness. And yet, many people overspend on a lifestyle they believe will make them happy – only to rack up thousands of dollars in debt. This, in turn, leads to stress, worry and unhappiness. Incredibly, living frugally can make you happier than living lavishly.

If you’d like to live more frugally, establish a goal to keep you focused. Maybe you’d like to travel the world or buy your dream home. Write down your objective and place reminders of your goal where you’ll see them often.

There are so many benefits to living frugally:
  • Appreciating what you have. Instead of throwing away old items, you’ll learn to repurpose them.
  • Choosing experiences over objects. Instead of going to the mall for a new outfit, you’ll play board games with friends. These experiences provide memories and happiness that can last a lifetime.
  • Your debt will diminish. The burden of debt often ties people to jobs and locations they dislike. Once your debt disappears, you’ll have the freedom to choose a profession and location that makes you happy.
  • You’ll have more leisure time. When your debt is gone, you can work less and have more time to pursue hobbies.
  • You’ll be on the path to early retirement. Instead of working through your golden years, you can garden, travel and enjoy your grandchildren.
  • You’ll find joy in helping others. By reducing expenses and saving money, you can help support causes that are important to you. 
Here’s how to get started:

Start small 
Make a list of what you’d like to accomplish, how much money you’ll need to achieve it, and make a plan. Determine which expenses you can live without. Instead of buying gourmet drive-thru coffee, brew your own at home. Brown-bag your lunch instead of eating out. Make a weekly meal plan and cook your meals at home. Steps like these can save you hundreds of dollars a month. 

Consolidate debt 
If you’re paying down multiple credit cards, consider consolidating them into one loan or into a single, lower-interest credit card to save on interest charges. Check out Community Financial’s low-interest credit card options and apply at cfcu.org. Once you’ve consolidated your credit card debt, keep your oldest card, but use it infrequently and close all others. 

Stretch your money 
When purchasing groceries, clip coupons and look for sales. Shopping for clothing? Check local thrift stores, yard sales, and clearance racks for the best possible deals. 

Look for ways to lower your monthly bills. Consider giving up your expensive cable service. Trim your electricity bill by hanging your clothes outside to dry and by unplugging electronic devices when they’re not in use. 

Give frugal living a try! You have nothing to lose, but debt! 

Your Turn: Does saving money make you happy? How do you save – and enjoy the process? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Shred Your Confidential Documents at Shred Day September 16th

Clues to your personal and financial information are often buried throughout your personal paperwork and mail. One search through your mailbox or trash could garner enough evidence for a thief to take control of your identity — and your finances. Thieves can use credit cards, financial statements, or utility bills to obtain and exploit that personal information.

The first line of defense is to destroy documents that contain your personal information before anyone can access it. Private documents and credit/debit cards, which contain sensitive information, should be destroyed once you no longer need them.

Join us for Shred Day! 

If you are looking for a way to securely shred and destroy your old documents, why not bring them to our Shred Day event on Saturday, September 16th from 2:00 – 4:30 p.m.?

We will have Shred-it trucks on site to securely shred documents at 3 of our branch locations:

Livonia Branch- 34000 W. Seven Mile Road
Canton Branch- 6355 N. Canton Center Road
Gaylord Branch- 1360 W. Main Street 

Shredding is a great way to destroy your personal documents to protect your information and your finances. As a general rule, it’s better to have as few physical documents on file as possible. Switching to online banking and opting-out of paper statements can also help keep your financial information secure.

Hosting Shred Day is just one way we try to help our members and communities, and make their lives easier. If you have questions about our Shred Day event please call us at (877) 937-2328.

Community Financial Credit Union, P.O. Box 8050, Plymouth, Michigan 48170-8050;
© Community Financial 2013
Federally insured by NCUA.
Equal Housing Lender
Additional coverage provided by ESI.
Federally insured by NCUA.